Collateral (2004)

(In theaters, August 2004) Michael Mann films are rightfully regarded as minor film-making events, and even this admittedly average effort shows why: In this case, an average script is delivered by above-average talent, making it seem a great deal fresher than it is. Just take a look at the first few minutes, as Mann’s camera suggests Los Angeles as a vast uncaring monster, thinly linked by endless roads on which it’s easy for a man to be reduced to the simple role of a carrier. Hey, I know this is reading too much in a film, but that’s exactly the beauty of Mann’s direction: Make things appear deeper than they are. Because frankly, once you start picking at the details of this kidnapping/assassination thriller, it falls apart quickly: Jamie Foxx may play a sympathetic cab driver taken hostage, but the moron repeatedly manages to miss even the most obvious ways to get out, call the police and get away. The point isn’t that he should have done so (otherwise; short movie!) but that the screenwriter should have worked a little harder polishing the script. Otherwise, you end up with the kind of amazing coincidence that is likely to make any audience shake their head. (Come on: Don’t tell me you didn’t know, ten minutes in, who the fifth target was going to be.) Silly script, with a sub-par third act that crumples into a whimper of a conclusion. But -aha- boy does it look good and profound with Mann at the helm. (Tom Cruise also helps, with an icy look that does much to bring some much-needed oomph to the story) Wow, philosophical discussions in a taxi cab! It almost makes Collateral feel like it’s supposed to be a fable about estrangement and not a run-of-the-mill thriller. But don’t take a second look: You may be disappointed.

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